Monday, February 1, 2010

Jaffer rues lack of opportunities

Wasim Jaffer who wondered why the national selectors did not persist with him longer.
It has been a long journey for Jaffer exactly ten years since he first played Test cricket for India against the visiting South Africans in the February of 2000.

Considered by many to be India’s answer against genuine pace bowling and movement, the Mumbai lad did not have an easy ride to the top. Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock were at their peak and Jaffer took time to get into the groove.

Once he did though, there was very little to complain about. In the course of his 31 Tests, Jaffer had cracked 1944 runs at 34.10, not outstanding but effective nevertheless.

As the Indian team prepares to take on the Proteas once again in a Test series at home, the out of favour India opener looks back at what could have been.

“I made my last India comeback in 2006 against England and did reasonably well in whatever opportunities I got. If only the selectors had persisted with me a little longer, things would have been different.”

Perhaps the telling blow came on India’s tour of Australia two years back when Jaffer struggled for form, managing a paltry 49 runs in three Tests and the seasoned Ranji campaigner admits as much.

“I know I had a poor series in Australia but I had been getting runs before that.”

In fact, a year before Anil Kumble led his team to that fateful Test series Down Under, Jaffer had played his role to perfection in India’s first Test series victory in the West Indies.

He had emerged a hero in a batting line-up studded with stars. A career best 212 at St John’s and a series high of 372 runs had catapulted the gentle Mumbaikar to new heights.

What might have worked against Jaffer was the sudden emergence of Gautam Gambhir as an able ally for Virender Sehwag at the top of the order.

While Jaffer lost hold of the opening slot in trying conditions in Australia, Gambhir seized all the initiative in the ODI’s in the Commonwealth Bank Series and not long after, the selectors had decided he was their man for all formats.

However, Jaffer has not given up hope and he stands clear on what he needs to do.

With Sehwag and Gambhir spewing fire at the top and Murali Vijay waiting in the wings, there is not much scope for an intrusion but Jaffer is eyeing a middle order berth.
“If you look at the current Ranji season, I batted mostly in the middle order. I know it is difficult to open the innings for India now but I am ready to bat at any position.”

Away from the Indian dressing room for two years now, Jaffer has been working relentlessly not only on his game but also on young India hopefuls in Mumbai.

Under his captaincy, Jaffer has led the side to two successive Ranji Trophy wins- this time under difficult circumstances.

“The last two seasons have been different but successful. Last year, we had all our seniors- Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan and Rohit Sharma available in the semi-finals and the finals.

This time, they weren’t playing for us but the boys lifted their game at the right stage and look what that did for Mumbai.”

Jaffer is a traditionalist and that has been apparent from the way Mumbai played over the last two years- unrelenting, neat, hard-fought cricket.

The captain is proud of the team’s achievements and those of his men’s.

“Most of the youngsters have done well. It is not like they have had just one good season but they have done well constantly.

Ajinkya Rahaney for instance has been so consistent. He got 1100 runs last year and followed it up with 1750 runs this year.”

Dhawal Kulkarni and Abhishek Nayar have been in the national reckoning too with Rahaney and Jaffer empathises with them for the sheer lack of opportunities.

It is not easy sitting out in the cold after the nauseating heights of international cricket but Jaffer has done a commendable job, trying to put things in perspective. At 31, Jaffer knows, there is still more than a ray of hope.


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